Located in Abhaneri village, near Jaipur, Rajasthan, in India, this picturesque ancient monument is a beautiful feat of past ingenuity and architecture. It attracts many visitors to the region due to its intricate laced walls of steps, which are a feature as eye catching as they were functional.
One of the oldest Rajasthan landmarks, the monument was built between 800 A.D. and 900 A.D. during the Chauhan Dynasty of King Chanda. Originally named Abha Nagri, which meant “city of brightness,” upon completion it was dedicated to the worship in the name of Harshat Mata, goddess of happiness and joy.
The region is incredibly arid and dry while rainfall is scarce, and so the landmark’s primary function was to conserve and store water for public baths. The structure consists of around 3,500 steps set over 13 stories and extends around 30 meters into the ground. This makes it one of the deepest and largest stepwells in India. At its deepest point, the air in the well is considerably cooler than at the surface, usually by about 5 to 6°C. People would come here to escape the intense heat and cool down in the waters pooling within the structure. Looking out over the well itself there is a rest room and pavilion for royalty or other VIP guests, which goes to show the site was a welcome spot for both the upper crust and common folk alike.
Whilst its maze-like structure and dizzying display of geometric design are certainly a breathtaking sight, the landmark has not really entered into the busy hubbub and fanfare associated with more famous tourist attractions. It is a little out of the way and remains somewhat of a well-kept secret. The site is open 7 days a week under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Although it no longer functions as a well, it is still worth the trip to witness the marvel; stepwells are an architecturally unique feature found only in this region and this is one of the finest examples.
The best way to reach the site is to travel to Sikandra and take a jeep or taxi from there; alternatively travel to Gular by bus and it’s around a an hour’s walk to Abhaneri.
The stepwell isn’t the only cultural heritage site of interest in Abhaneri: Adjoining it is the Harshat Mata Temple. Built between the 7th and 8th centuries, this stunning temple now unfortunately lies in disrepair after having been destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni. However, much of the architecture is still intact and damaged pillars lie strewn about the courtyard.
You may recognize this stepwell yourself as it’s been featured in a few films due to its completely unique design. The Fall, The Dark Knight Rises and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel all shot scenes here. Clearly, the place has got something a little special and is well worth a visit.